Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Right or wrong: my struggle with kanji

Home is where you hang your hat. But in ancient China, home was where you sacrificed animals to propitiate the gods, so the early ideogram for 'home' depicted an animal on a slab.

I'm at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation in London to learn the rudiments of kanji, the pictorial writing system imported to Japan from China in the fifth century AD. Here is the modern kanji character for 'home', drawn swiftly and beautifully by our teacher, Taki Koraida:

It's about to get difficult. I'm left-handed and it's obvious to me that the strokes, sweeps and upticks of kanji are designed by right-handed people. 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning' (Psalm 137). 

To prepare for this calligraphy course I've switched to using my right (wrong) hand in life class:

But, as Taki reminds us, calligraphy isn't painting or drawing. So my 'look - wrong hand!' performance isn't much good as preparation for kanji. At life class I have a moan with another left-hander. His family rejoiced when he fell out of a window and broke his left arm at the age of ten. They mourned when, once the plaster was removed, he remained a southpaw.

To be continued.

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